What is Michigan's statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Question

What is Michigan’s statute of limitations for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Answer

First, a little background: A “statute of limitations” is a law that impacts your right to file a lawsuit. Specifically, it sets a strict limit on the amount of time you have to get your case started in court. If the deadline has passed and you try to file the lawsuit, it’s a safe bet that the defendant -- in the context of a medical malpractice case, that’s the doctor or health care facility you’re trying to sue -- will ask the court to dismiss the case. And if the court grants that request (as it almost certainly will), that’s the end of the lawsuit. So it’s crucial to pay attention to the statute of limitations as it applies to your case.

Now, onto the specifics of Michigan’s statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases. The standard deadline is set by Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5805(6), and it gives you two years to get your lawsuit filed in the state’s court system, starting from the date on which the alleged medical error was committed.

But there is another Michigan law that could extend the filing deadline. Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5838 says that a medical malpractice case must be filed within the standard two-year time period or “within six months after the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the existence of the claim, whichever is later.” Keep in mind that if you are relying on this six-month rule, as the plaintiff you have the burden of proving that you did not discover -- and could not have reasonably discovered -- the existence of the claim.

Finally, Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.5838a sets a larger filing deadline -- known as a “statute of repose” -- which requires that a medical malpractice be filed no more than six years after the date on which the underlying malpractice was committed, regardless of when the existence of the claim was discovered. The only exceptions are cases where the defendant fraudulently concealed the commission of the malpractice, or when “there has been permanent loss of or damage to a reproductive organ resulting in the inability to procreate.” In those two situations, there is no larger six year deadline.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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